Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns


 


The French Army at Talavera de la Reyna: 27 - 28 July 1809

By Stephen Millar

 

There was some skirmishing throughout the rest of the day [27 July] including the celebrated incident during the evening involving four battalions of Spanish infantry who, when apparently `threatened' by some distant French cavalry, let loose a shattering volley before running away at the sound of their own muskets, stopping only to plunder the British baggage train.

-- Talavera: 27-28 July 1809 http://www.ifbt.co.uk/talavera.htm

The Battle of Talavera de la Reyna (27 - 28 July 1809) was one of the major battles fought in the longest campaign of the Napoleonic Wars: the six-year Peninsular Campaign. The British victory is surrounded by a degree of controversy – especially as LG Sir Arthur Wellesley was subsequently created Baron Douro and Viscount Wellington of Talavera.. Military historians continue to debate the Anglo-Spanish troop deployment as well as the battle’s strategic importance (the French retreated from the battlefield on the night of 28-29 July with a loss of 7,268 men; Wellesley’s army retired to Balajoz on the Spanish-Portugese border in early August). Anglo-Spanish casualties on 28 July had been 5,365 (mostly British).

King Joseph’s Army of the Center was composed of three formations, which united for the Battle of Talavera de la Reyna: Marshal Claude-Victor Perrin [dit Victor]’s 20,000 men from Merida; GdD Horace-Francois-Bastien, Comte Sebastiani’s 22,000 men from Madridejos; and Joseph’s 12,000 men from Madrid. Many sources put the French strength on 28 July at 42,000-46,000 men and 80-82 guns – approximately 35,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry – with an unknown number of non-combat units and personnel.

The Army of the Center was not an entirely-French formation. GdD Jean-Francois Leval’s 2nd Infantry Division of Sebastiani’s IV Corps was composed of troops from Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt and Holland. There was also a Polish lancer regiment and a Westphalian cheveauxleger regiment in GdB Christophe-Antoine Merlin’s light cavalry division of the French Reserve Cavalry. One sources also lists four squadrons of the 3rd (Dutch) Hussar Regiment with I Corps’ cavalry brigade.

Joseph’s chief-of-staff was Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jordan, a French officer who spent most of his Empire war service in Naples and Spain (as a side-note, Jourdan did not possess a dual title – a rarity in the Marshalate – although King Louis XVIII made him a count in 1815). Jourdan had been the commander of the French Army of the Moselle at the Battle of Fleurus (26 June 1794).

Army of the Center

64 battalions and 70 squadrons

Commander-in-Chief: Bonaparte, Joseph, King of Spain and the Indies
Chief-of-Staff: Jourdan, Marshal Jean-Baptiste
Chief-of-Artillery: Hureau de Senarmont, GdD Alexandre-Antoine, Baron

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2004

 

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